Alberta Theatre Projects’ playRites in brief — three plays, exactly 100 words each

How Do I Love Thee?, by Florence Gibson MacDonald:
Given my near-complete lack of literary training, I only know Elizabeth Barrett Browning for her titular question, and even less of Robert Browning. Maybe an emotional connection to their poetry would’ve made How Do I Love Thee go down easier, but as it stands, the florid language seemed disconnected from a relatively flat performance. Things improve in the second act, when the play moves from literary wooing to real human conflict, and the actors do their best to instill real passion and energy in the poetry, but it’s hard to imagine there’s much here that wasn’t already on the page.

Abraham Lincoln Goes to the Theatre, by Larry Tremblay, translated by Chantal Bilodeau:
As complex as Lincoln is in theory, the execution always makes it clear what’s happening at any given point. What’s less clear is why. The ever-piling layers of meta-narrative sometimes serve the plot, but more often they feel like punch lines, only occasionally provoking any real reflection. Ignore the meta aspects, though, and the script reveals a rhythm and even an idiosyncratic beauty all its own, touching on issues of mortality and artistic expression. Even at 100 minutes it’s longer than the premise can sustain, but it’s worth it for the vigor of the actors and the sporadically inspired philosophizing.

Tyland
, by Greg MacArthur
Tyland feels redundant after last month’s No Exit: despite an intriguing premise and unique setting, much of the play boils down to “Hell is other people.” The cast is note-perfect, though, particularly a nebbishy Kevin Corey as a self-absorbed government agent — though self-absorbed could be a descriptor for the full cast, who don’t communicate so much as they exchange isolated monologues. The script’s biggest problem is its seeming lack of affection for any of its characters, and an ending that devolves into thriller boilerplate is a bit disappointing, too, but it still rises above the sum of its flaws.

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